Syndicated lending volume for 1995 hit a record $817 billion, and there are no signs of a slowdown.
Loan syndicators broke 1994's record volume by 23%, and fourth-quarter volume of $218.5 billion was up 13.8% over a year earlier, according to Loan Pricing Corp.
Experts attributed the volume gains to a wave of refinancings by investment-grade corporations and to consolidations in such industries as media and defense that are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
"The only difference between 1995 and 1996, at least as far as I can tell at this point, is the turn of a calendar page," said James B. Lee Jr., head of global investment banking at Chemical Banking Corp.
"Any industry that is either just purely consolidating, like a defense industry - or an industry that is producing rapidly changing strategic or value characteristics, like media and telecommunications - will continue to generate a lot of banking work," Mr. Lee said.
Indeed, so far in the first quarter, banks have led multibillion dollar defense acquisitions for Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.
Chase Manhattan Corp., BankAmerica, and Chemical Banking Corp. are leading a $4.8 billion loan for Northrop's acquisition of Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s defense and electronics business.
At the same time, J.P. Morgan & Co., BankAmerica, and Citicorp are leading a $10 billion loan for Lockheed's acquisition of the Loral Corp.
"All the capital markets remain extremely strong," said Bruce Ling, head of loan syndications at Credit Suisse. The debt markets remained robust as well, which "bodes well for issuers," he said. "Receptivity is likely to gain in 1996, as was evidenced in 1995."
CS First Boston benefited from that receptivity, rising in the league tables to seventh place for 1995 from 10th for 1994.
"This shows the strength of the franchise in terms of our mergers and acquisitions capabilities, as well as our debt and equity products," said Mr. Ling.
The perennial market leader, Chemical, topped the tables for the year, serving as agent on more than $257 billion in bank loans, for a 21% market share.
Chase, in its last year before its merger with Chemical, placed fifth, leading $83.7 billion in deals, and commanding a 7% market share.
Combined, Chemical and Chase would have won a total of $321.3 billion in loan volume and collected a 26% market share in 1995, subtracting duplicate deals, according to Loan Pricing Corp.
Mr. Lee predicted the merger with Chase would be similar to the bank's merger with Manufacturer's Hanover, in which the whole was greater than the sum of the parts in terms of deal volume. "We think the Chase merger will produce an analogous result, and early signs suggest that," he said.
As they had through last year, Citicorp and J.P. Morgan ranked second and third, respectively, with Citicorp leading 12% of the market and $149.5 billion in deals, and Morgan a close third with 11% of the market and $134.6 billion in volume.
BankAmerica displaced NationsBank at the No. 4 spot, with a 7% market share and $89.8 billion in deal volume.
By a slim margin, Citicorp led the market in the fourth quarter, with $70.9 billion in deals and an 18% market share, with Chemical a close second, with $66.1 billion in deals at a 17% market share.
Citicorp closed a number of big deals in the quarter, including a $12 billion loan for Walt Disney Co.'s acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC Inc.